LINCOLN, Maine — The hiring of a Katahdin region police officer will give police a needed bit of experience and bring the department to almost full strength, officials said Wednesday.
David Cram, an 11-year veteran with East Millinocket police, started his new job Monday, Town Manager Lisa Goodwin said, bringing the total number of full-time police in Lincoln to six. It’s been years since the town had that many, Goodwin said.
“He is a great find for Lincoln,” Police Chief William Lawrence said Wednesday. “It is a misfortune for East Millinocket to lose him, but it’s great for Lincoln. He will give us a good mix of officers within the department.”
Regular turnover has caused the town to go through five police chiefs since 2005 ― Chiefs Hank Dusenbery, William Flagg, Scott Minckler and now Lawrence, with Fire Chief Phil Dawson also filling in temporarily.
Lincoln’s six-member roster has turned over entirely at least once every two years since 2004. Town leaders have blamed the turnover on uncompetitive salaries and the lure of working in towns with more activity. Some of the police who have left have said the town has a history of treating its officers poorly, but they have declined to cite specific examples.
Aside from Cram and Lawrence, a 31-year veteran, Lincoln police have no full-time officers with more than three years’ full-time experience. The department’s case-clearance rate — the number of cases disposed of typically through arrests and convictions — from April 2010 to April 2011 was also about 20 percent, a problem Lawrence attributed to its lack of experienced officers and the lack of a detective who can investigate connections between crimes and help police with crime prevention.
The national clearance rate is 30 percent, Lawrence has said.
However, Lincoln’s 11 reserve, or part-time, staff is experienced and versatile, with officers who work full time for towns such as Old Town, Houlton and Hermon and others who have extensive military experience, Lawrence said.
The reserves work about 50 hours a month, Lawrence said.
Cram’s experience will especially be helpful to the department as its younger officers grow into their jobs, Lawrence said. Another helpful addition Lawrence proposed and town leaders agreed with, the creation of a uniformed investigators’ position, will occur within several weeks, he said.
Goodwin will be advertising the position, seeking officers with at least three years’ full-time experience and a state certification, within a week or two, Lawrence said. Officers from within the department can apply for the job, which will create a seventh full-time slot on the police roster.
Goodwin said she is also seeking a federal grant that will pay for one officer’s position for three years.